By Julie Shapiro
TRIBECA — It's time to put the "Tribeca" back in the Tribeca Film Festival, downtown residents say. If only there was space for it.
Robert De Niro founded the annual film extravaganza 10 years ago to boost lower Manhattan's recovery from 9/11, but the festival's events have steadily migrated north, to larger venues in Chelsea and the Village.
"Now you have to hop on a train and go to 23rd Street," said Marc Ameruso, a longtime TriBeCa resident and Community Board 1 member. "That doesn't help the businesses down here."
After Ameruso voiced his concerns at a CB1 meeting Wednesday night, Nancy Schafer, executive director of the festival, replied that she felt the same way.
"Because it's the 10th year, I really wanted to bring the festival [back] downtown," Schafer said.
The festival tried to rent space from Regal Cinemas in Battery Park City, the only major movie theater in the area, but Regal turned down the request, Schafer said. The theater could not spare the space because of agreements with movie distributers, she said.
"I'm as heartbroken as you are," Schafer told the local residents Wednesday night.
Regal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Tribeca Film Festival will still offer some events south of Canal Street this year, including a free, outdoor opening night screening of "The Union," a documentary about Elton John, on April 20. Following the film, John will perform a live show.
The festival will also host its popular "Drive-In" movie night at North Cove for local residents, along with the Tribeca Family Festival street fair on April 30 and a handful of screenings at Tribeca Cinemas and the Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Schafer said.
The festival is also sponsoring its first-ever film celebrity soccer tournament on Pier 40 in lower Manhattan, Schafer said. And, as in past years, downtown residents will get an exclusive deal on tickets to the screenings, shortly before they go on sale to the general public.
"I want to be down here as much as you want us to be down here," Schafer said.